published Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Senate panel approves lawmaker pay freeze

WASHINGTON — A Senate panel voted Thursday to follow the House and deny lawmakers the cost-of-living pay raise they would otherwise automatically receive next January.

The move by the Appropriations Committee would freeze congressional salaries at $174,000 a year and is attached to legislation to fund Congress' budget, which passed the panel by voice vote. Lawmakers haven't received a pay hike since January 2009.

Bipartisan reforms enacted in 1989 gave lawmakers a big pay increase in exchange for dropping the much-criticized practice of accepting money from outside interest groups for speeches.

That legislation also awarded lawmakers annual cost-of-living pay increases, but lawmakers have often opted to deny themselves the pay hikes.

The House passed the pay freeze last month.

Congress accepted the annual COLA for some years in the 1990s and for most of the 2000s but has voted to deny itself the raise for five consecutive years.

The scheduled 1.6 percent hike would have given lawmakers a raise of about $2,800 in January.

The congressional salary is generous, though lawmakers often earn less money than do the lobbyists who meet with them. And steep housing prices in the Washington area can be a hardship for lawmakers who opt to rent an apartment.

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